Are you a good communicator? Are you great at it, just okay or not so good at all?
How do you know? Have you ever asked the people with whom you most often communicate what they think about your communication skills?
I have experienced that leaders either have an effective or ineffective style of communicating. Interesting, I often find that leaders with very ineffective communication styles often think of themselves as good communicators. Therein lies the problem. Communication is a two-way street — there is always a giver and a receiver. The communication given and the understanding received must be congruent, or effective communication has not taken place.
In my Dad’s book, “The Tripping Point in Leadership,” he points out that there are two fundamental steps in developing an effective communication style:
STEP 1: Become aware of your existing communication style.
If you are the leader of a team and have never asked the team members if your communication is effective, then I would encourage you do so! It can be awkward to ask directly because most people do not like confrontation, and you may not get an honest answer. The best way to get this feedback is to do a 360 Review. This is where you send out a survey to your team asking very specific questions as to your communication style. Surveys must remain anonymous in order for you to truly get honest feedback. With this awareness you now understand the gaps in your current style, and you can begin to establish an effective communication model. Consistent and effective communication never happens by accident!
STEP 2: Learn what an effective communication style looks like.
There are three things I suggest you focus on when it comes to effective communication:
- Listen to Understand. How many times have you been talking to someone, and you are both speaking the same language, but it feels the person isn’t really listening? Also, when someone is talking to you, you realize that halfway through their speech you have truly stopped listening. What we find ourselves doing is formulating what we want to say the minute they stop talking. This is especially true if we disagree with what they are saying. The next time someone is talking, and you are simply waiting to jump in and say something, I encourage you to just pause. Become aware of listening to fully understand. It helps to ask a question for clarity of what the person has said. It also helps to ask the person to, “tell me more.” This is a great way to practice listening to understand.
- Communicate honestly and respectfully. Open, honest and respectful communication is the cornerstone of effective leadership. Gallup did a study with over one million work teams and determined that team members have four basic needs they are looking for from leaders: trust, compassion, stability and hope. Being able to communicate honestly and respectfully is a key in creating those feelings in your communications.
- Communication is both reactive and proactive. Does it feel like you are on call 24/7? If so, you are probably spending all of your time in reactive communication. This means you are responding to text messages, emails and voice mails. Reactive communication is important, but for many leaders it may be, unconsciously, the only form of communication used. It is important to remember that some leader communications need to be proactive. Proactive communication should be clear and articulate, communicating what is important at the time it is needed. One thing I always encourage leaders to do is have reoccurring, time-scheduled, one-on-one meetings with individual team members. When it comes to encouraging improved individual performance, the consistent one-on-one meetings are invaluable! Regularly scheduled one-on-one meetings can effectively turn 10 separate calls into one productive meeting. These one-on-one meetings can be a big step in moving you into proactive communication.
It is important as a leader to become aware of your existing communication style and learn what an effective communication style looks like so that you can become an effective communicator. I have personally observed so many positive changes with teams and organizations when a leader assumes the responsibility for establishing an effective communication environment.
In love and gratitude,
Jenni Byrd Grier, President of The Byrd Group, is an accomplished International speaker with more than 15 years of corporate management and leadership experience as well as an MBA in International Business. Jenni is a life-changing Next Level Achievement™ Coach who will help you create a vision, live life with intentionality, set goals and make them happen. You can find more information on personalized coaching with Jenni here.